Delivering on the electric vehicle agenda

With the historic result last week that saw Labour taking a huge majority only just shy of that in 1997, what can we expect for the electric vehicle agenda? In this industry insight, Mark Constable – Head of Public Affairs at Trojan Energy – gives his views on what the new Government might do.

The day before the election was called (luckily!) I attended the strategy hustings at the EV All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) with a group of industry experts – and for once we got to ask questions of the parliamentarians rather than the other way around. 

It was a great session, well attended from both Houses, and with all three main party representatives (MPs Anthony Browne, Sarah Jones and Wera Hobhouse) putting forward clear paths and goals. My main takeaway at the time was that there was likely to be more difference in the politics between the old and new governments than in funding commitments.  

The new regime’s welcome manifesto pledge to restore the 2030 cessation of new pure-ICE car sales is perhaps the biggest headline. Six months ago, Labour’s messaging on its intent to restore the original deadline was less than full-throated, and it was then rumoured that it could be stepped back if polling was closer than it ultimately ended up being. It will be interesting to see how quickly this commitment makes the parliamentary agenda, against a whole slew of competing national priorities and further accusations of “instability”, and whether the widespread public misunderstanding of what the milestone actually means can be addressed at the same time.

In detailed terms, it’s very much a continuation of the decent policies put in-flight under the previous government: LEVI, EV benefit-in-kind, Zero-Emission HGVs, progressing the accessibility agenda, and the various home chargepoint schemes, including the cross-pavement incentives announced at the end of March. On that last point: guidance for local authorities around this growing sector for on-street parkers, that was delayed due to the ‘pre-election period of sensitivity’, should now appear shortly.  

The new government has also talked about ‘unsticking’ the Rapid Charge Fund – currently a largely unallocated pot of money that must seem tempting to the Treasury, despite the overall problem of bringing high power long distances to motorways and trunk routes not having been solved any other way yet.

At the APPG, Labour presented their EV plans as a Trade and Industry initiative, rather than transport, and this could be the biggest ideological difference in approach going forward. The new government sees UK automotive as the jewel in our industrial crown, and hopefully that bodes well for battery manufacturing and the whole eMobility supply chain. Manufacturing in the UK, like Trojan and a few other CPOs undertake, isn’t as easy as it could be and so we shall await developments with interest.

Another clear difference between the old and new governments is the view on Brexit. I don’t think anyone is predicting a return to the bigger ticket items like the Single Market or Freedom of Movement, but a lighter reconciliation such as re-entering the Customs Union could now appear on a future agenda – perhaps in a second Labour term. As well as the new Rules of Origin regulations, the EU introduction of tariffs on EVs made in China regardless of by whom – BYDs, MGs, Teslas and BMWs made there receive the same treatment – will have implications for our industry in any negotiation. I did ask a tariffs question at the APPG, and at that point no party had plans to simply follow the EU and introduce them.

Politics is the art of doing something that somebody somewhere doesn’t want done. The transition to EVs is a much bigger cultural challenge than a technical one, which is why it’s so political, and seeing the whole board is paramount in understanding where best to direct outreach activities. This week, Trojan is hosting the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Fiona Hyslop, at our Aberdeen HQ. 

The Scottish devolved policy landscape has some similarities but also some key differences, but despite the experiences of the ruling party in the Westminster election, their mandate north of the border remains in place. Support for home-grown industry is significant, in both policy and material support, and Trojan has gratefully benefitted from both. For the UK, the hope is that the new Westminster government builds on the great early-stage work delivered with the help of Innovate UK and other bodies and decides after all to create a new wide-ranging industrial strategy. 

Mark Constable is also the Chair of RECHARGE UK – the EV Forum at REA and will be speaking at this year’s Transport + Energy Forum.

Sign up for our essential
newsletter service.

Enter your details here.